Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She's overwhelmed and burned out, and in today's unrelenting society, her kids are, too. When her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series promoting simple living, and needs another family to join her, it seems like the perfect opportunity.
The location is an idyllic farm outside an Amish community in Tennessee. Julie, with her two children, joins Susan and her teenage daughter for a summer adventure. Susan needs to succeed in order to become self-sufficient after an ugly divorce, Julie needs to slow down long enough to remember what her priorities are and regain a sense of purpose and meaning. It becomes clear from the start that "living simple" is no simple matter. With the camera watching every move, Susan's drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. With each new challenge, their season of "going Amish" gets more and more complicated, as each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family. My thoughts: At first I wasn't sure what I'd think about ALMOST AMISH. Reality TV shows, English living as Amish (dressed in pioneer clothes?) and women's fiction.... Not a genre I'm a huge fan of, though I do read some. But this book - ALMOST AMISH grabbed me from the first page. I totally got Julie. Not perfect. Real. Gifted with organizing, but not cleaning. Gifted with seeing people, but not baking for school functions. And running ragged with all her and her children's and her husband's activities... Crazy. She needed a breather, and when her sister-in-law, Susan accepted a reality TV show position (for a needed boost with her career) she jumped at the chance to get away. But the situation is far from perfect. They take out the propane stove and put in a wood stove -- which neither woman had even seen one before, much less baked/cooked with one. The producers "greeked' labels, meaning they didn't know what ingredients were what in some cases, and well, there were NO privacy. Julie found herself going to bat over and over for her children and Susan because Susan wouldn't stand up for herself (afraid to risk her career plans) and the producers were running alll over them. . . Add a "handyman", a potential romance and lots of heart and realism and you have ALMOST AMISH. This was a beautifully written story that I totally LOVED. I have made decisions to slow our family life down as I grew older -- getting rid of TV, baking most meals from scratch, not eating out, and spending time together as a family. We have a reputation of being "The Waltons" around here - actually eating at the table as a family. . . etc. I am not good at gardening, (Julie was) and not good at sewing (Julie was) but otherwise I totally related to her. GREAT story. I haven't read much (if anything else) by this author, but I will look up more, based on this book. 5 stars.